Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Extract Method introduces a bug in this corner case

I rely on automated Extract Method to do the right thing, regardless of test coverage. This is a key part of attacking legacy code that lacks tests. But if the Extract Method introduces a subtle bug, then I can't rely on it.

Here's the code:

As it is, the test passes. If you extract the indicated block, then the test fails. Extract Method should add a `ref`  to the parameter on the new method.

This repros with VS2013, VS2015, and ReSharper 8, 9, and 10.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Examples of tiny test-induced design damage

Imagine you are trying to write a unit test for some code, but you're finding it difficult.

Maybe there's some complex detail in the middle of a method that is not relevant to the current test, and wouldn't it be nice to disable that bit of code just for the purpose of the test? Maybe you could add an optional boolean parameter to the method, which when set causes the detail to be skipped.

With the exception of getting legacy code under test to support you when refactoring, I see this as a bad thing, making the code worse just for the sake of testing.

Here's my list so far:
  • method marked 'internal' for testing
  • method marked 'virtual' for testing
  • method overload for testing
  • additional optional method parameter, only used for testing
  • public field that is only modified under test, to change behavior for testing
  • public field that is only read by tests
  • function replaced with mutable delegate field, only mutated for testing
Yes, TDD is about letting tests influence your design, but not in this way!

So how do you tell the difference? Here are a few ways:

  • Will this be used for both testing and in production? 
  • Do you feel the urge to add a comment saying why you did this?
  • If you removed the tests, would you keep this design?
  • Your own design sense. Do you think the design is better?
What to do about it?

Usually the desire to do this indicates that your class/function/module whatever is doing too much. 

Maybe you need to extract a class. If it's not obvious what belongs in the class, you might need to extract some methods first, to put in that new class.

A really common case is primitive obsession, like if the method deals with some string. If you move the string in to a new class, and then move that "deals with the string" code in to the class, then the class is small and easy to test and your code has improved. This is Whole Value.

Maybe there's something at the beginning or end of the method that talks to an external system, and that is making testing difficult. You could move those lines to the caller, and the method becomes testable.

I'd like to find some concrete examples.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Mob Programming conference 2016


Mobbing time lapse – a full day in 3 minutes

Woody Zuill keynote – how they found mobbing

Some Helpful Observations for successful Mob Programming (short slide deck)


Some of the people who I was glad to see at the conference:
  • Woody Zuill. Manager of the Hunter mob that discovered mobbing, and instigator of the #NoEstimates discussion
  • Llewellyn Falco. Creator of ApprovalTests, Teaching Kids Programming, credited with “strong-style” pair programming.
  • Nancy Van Schooenderwoert. Led a team of newbies to fantastic results, and wrote about it:

There were around 50 people total, including people from Cornwall, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland.


It was held at Microsoft’s New England Research and Development Center (“NERD Center”), right next to MIT. My cardkey didn’t work on the doors, though.

The 3 days beforehand were the Agile Games Conference, in the same space.


2 keynotes:
  • Woody Zuill on how they discovered mob programming
  • Llewellyn Falco on the science of mob programming (why it works)
4 mob programing workshops

2 open space slots.

The workshops were a chance to participate in a mob under the guidance of a mobbing expert. There were workshops at the introductory, intermediate, and advanced levels of mobbing.


The conference was less about teaching/learning, and more about experience. As such, most of my take-aways don’t fit in to an email. Hopefully I can facilitate these experiences for others.

Woody explicitly does not recommend mobbing. The important things he sees, which led to the discovery of mobbing + great results:

  • Kindness, consideration, and respect
  • The people doing the work should choose how they do they work
  • Turn up the good (work on making good things happen more, rather than fixing bad things – the bad things tend to melt away)

Mob programming is a skill. Don’t expect amazing results right at the outset.

At the conference I had the opportunity to experience mobbing at various levels, and this gave me a glimpse of what expert mobbing would look like. I can now see how that way of working would produce those amazing results.

I worker asked me to get the answer to the question “what is the ideal mob size?” The answer I found is largely about reframing the question:

If a team is not skilled at mobbing, then you won’t get great results, regardless of mob size. An expert mobbing team will be able to work well with 4 people or with 14. Get people that have each of the skills/knowledge/talents that will be needed, so they don’t get blocked.

I can now teach you to differentiate a male house sparrow from a male song sparrow, in less than a second.